For Hawaiians in old Hawaii, Pu’uhonua O Honaunau was considered to be a place of refuge. It was where you went, or attempted to go to, if you committed an act that went against the kapu system (the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct). In modern Hawaii, residents often complain about the $250 fine when caught using mobile devices in their vehicles. In old Hawaii, however, entering an area reserved for chiefs, or eating forbidden foods, would cost you your life. The stakes were much higher back then. But, there was a way out. If you could somehow Jason Bourne your way into a puuhonua, or place of refuge, your life would be spared.
Ahuena Heiau sits in Kamakahonu Bay in the historic Kailua Village on the Big Island. Michelle and I recently had the chance to visit this temple that served Kamehameha the Great when he returned to the Big Island in 1812. According to the official Ahuena Heiau website, three significant events occurred here. First, in 1910, Native Hawaiian’s mourned the loss of their King, as Kamehameha The Great died inside of the heiau. Second, it was here that Liholiho (Kamehameha II) broke the ancient kapu system (taboos that provided the framework for traditional Hawaiian government). Third, the first Christian missionaries traveled from New England and came ashore here in 1820.